In praise of peer-review on Amazon

Amazon natives idiot-hunting

Some people, I know, have a very low opinion of Amazon reviews. Either they’re written by friends of the author; or they’re written – under a pseudonym – by enemies or bitter rivals of the author; or they’re written by people who not only can’t write but can’t even read either: at least not in the sense of being able to absorb the nuances of a book and then comment discerningly thereon.

But I disagree. I think Amazon reviews are (generally) great, thanks largely to what you might call the “peer review” function.This means that whenever anyone writes something particularly crass or stupid, you can be fairly sure that some other doughty Amazon commenter will shoot them down in flames.

Here’s a glorious example of peer review in action with my book Watermelons.

First, a review from a man named Martin Lack who kindly hopes that the book will be “a total commercial failure” based on his idea of what he thinks the book may have said, though he hasn’t actually read it:

I don’t need to actually read this book in order to criticise it because James has very kindly summarised its content perfectly on his blog. (So no simple dismissals, please, on the grounds that I have not read it#). Unfortunately, for anyone objective enough to investigate, every single one of the completely stupid things which he there invites readers to imagine might be true can in fact be found to be false on any number of scientifically-literate websites.

In James’ amoral fantasy world, there is no cause and effect; no right and wrong. In his revisionist utopia, there is no right or left; there is only right and green. However, as someone once said, “all generalisations are wrong; including this one!” Therefore, even if environmentalism may be seen by many as a left-of-centre entity (although some scholars such as Roger Scruton and John Gray would challenge even this assumption*) it is ridiculous to suggest that all environmentalists are socialists in disguise.

All sparrows may be birds; but not all birds are sparrows! In point of fact, it is much more likely that, as the German Green Party suggested in the 1980s, “Greens are neither left nor right; they are out in front!” Therefore, no matter what Amazon may think (or people may say), I am not attacking the messenger (who undoubtedly has a perfectly good English degree from Oxford); I am attacking the message (which is totally without any legitimate foundation).

However, given that James is always trying to be funny, accepts he is incapable of reading peer-reviewed scientific literature, and admits to being ideologically prejudiced against taking environmental protection seriously (i.e. as a “libertarian conservative”), it would be a very dangerous thing indeed for anyone to mistake as serious, sensible, or objective, anything said by James Delingpole in this book. It is utterly infantile in its misconception of reality; and dangerously so. Therefore, I hope it is an absolute unmitigated commercial failure; our planet certainly deserves it to be.

Footnotes:
# A potentially-valid criticism of this review might be that I have only alluded to evidence to back up my hypothesis (rather than presenting that evidence). However, that does not mean the evidence or the websites do not exist and, in any case, as Ben Goldacre says in Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks, “You cannot reason people out of positions they did not reason themselves into” (page xii [2009 paperback edition]). Therefore, I would almost certainly be wasting my time (as if I am not doing so already) if I was to bother to elaborate further.

* See Scruton’s Chapter on ‘Conservatism’ in Political Theory and the Ecological Challenge (2006); and
Gray’s 2nd edition of False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (2009)

And now, the moment of retribution at the hands of first of Octavius 1:

“I don’t need to read this book in order to criticise it”…

And this is why your review means nothing.

And then, more thoroughly, from Magnumfore:

You know what’s puerile, Martin? The fact that you admit that you base a scathing, irrelevant review on a paragraph-sized summary of a book and then accuse your challengers of being the same. THAT is puerile. You disregard any of his potential sources, documents, or evidence in such a dismissive wave of the hand because it’s plainly obvious that you’re one of those climate goons who is so locked in his own hubris pseudo-science that, at this point, reading any legitimate criticism (or any criticism whatever!) of your so-called cause raises your hackles and, much like Mr. Occidental Petroleum Al Gore himself, refuses to take in or engage in any debate on the topic.

Your position on the book based on a summary only punctuates what I’ve written above, placing a huge exclamation point at the end.

Want to be taken seriously? Read the book, follow the sources, check the studies, THEN come back and say it’s all hogwash without a single grain of truth.

But you won’t do that because you’re like so many other climate goons brainwashed into thinking 0.036% carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is serious business when it’s been 15 times higher in human history and as high as 30% in world history…and plants and animals were still growing and we’re still here.

But ignore all the conflicting evidence at your peril.

10 thoughts on “In praise of peer-review on Amazon”

  1. Translation of. Lack’s terminology

    Objective – taking one’s prejudices seriously
    Scientifically literate – expressed as gobbledegook to confuse
    amoral fantasy world – not 1984
    revisionist – not socialist
    environmentalism – like all isms, a form of OCD
    perfectly good English degree from Oxford – jealousy
    without any legitimate foundation – see “amoral fantasy world”
    peer-reviewed – liked by Lack
    infantile – without sophistry
    my hypothesis – breach of copyright
    Ben Goldacre – approved bigot (cogn Billy Bragg)

  2. Just came to your website to say that you are the lowest form of life. Lying and over exaggerating without even understanding the basics. Dont read anything this man says people he only wants you to go to his website to get some click, he is what we call an internet troll and does not deserve a second of your time. Please die so that the world can be a better place.

    1. “..lying and over exaggerating..”
      You’ve pretty much summed up Govt, the UN’s IPCC and their crony climate change scientists (sizzling sensationalists) …and they’ve been at it for over 10 years

      “..lowest form of life..”
      Yep all forms of Govt and its crones are the very toilet of humanity and eevry country

      Hung yourself with your own rope there stupid

  3. Martin Lack was leaving ignorant comments on this site earlier this year. He wrote that he was doing a masters in environmental stuff, but if he thinks he can leave book reviews without reading the book first, then I won’t be wasting my time reading his thesis.

    You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, James. It’s best just to accept that people who are right are always hated irrationally by those who are on an ideological crusade to promote some kind of left-wing or right-wing money wasting scheme, in the name of protecting the environment.

  4. The internet is a wonderous thing… dozens sometimes hundreds of brains can usually solve any problem and, bad news for con artists like climate change crones, expose any lie

    Yes there’s a large noise to signal ratio and you have to search for the diamonds. But isn’t that true of mainstream journalism which has never peddled so much trash and lies in its actually pretty appalling (and in the main dishonest) history

    It’s also exposed alot of journalists not only to superior and sharper brains but tough cross examination of anything sloppy or badly researched. Previously journos could gob off freely without retort except for the odd angry readers letter.

    The web has shaprened everything up massively …although TV and newspapers remain aloof in their ivory towers (probably why they’re still total garbage)

  5. I must say, it’s very satisfying to see that the half-witted Delingpole gets so few comments on his blog (aside from fellow mouth-breathers). Just dropped by to sneer at the imbeciles. Shan’t bother again. Dullest blog this side of Boil An Egg With Delia.

  6. It’s funny Delingpole praising peer review on a comments page of an online shopping site after viciously attacking the scientific world’s peer review process. For all we know, the dimwit probably wrote half the praises himself, the other half written by wingnuts and fruitloops who buy into any conspiracy. Still, if that’s what he calls his peers….

  7. The photo remark in this blog is racist and an insult for Amazon natives. I wonder if Delingpole knows where the Amazon is, and I wonder whether he knows that is one of the 7 wonders of the world and that it is worth preserving!

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